Over the last three years, I have been charged with the task of working with and leading Christian Formation at Saint Michael. The process of raising up Christians has been split into three areas: Children and Family Ministry (CFM) which is birth through 5th grade, Youth Ministry which is 6th through 12th grades, and Adult Formation which is essentially everyone else. In the last three years, we have been working to create a Christian Formation process and plan.
Believe it or not, the first steps of that plan were incredibly basic. We had to reclaim Sunday morning for education and formation. There was not a single month of the academic/school calendar year that had three Sundays in a row of education. Special events, speakers, and extended services dominated the calendar. So, we started by prioritizing Sunday School so that people knew what to expect on a Sunday morning: go to church and go to Sunday School. This process witnessed a 300% increase in our numbers.
The current phase is looking at what we teach compared to scientific developmental theory and faith developmental theory. We used two folks, Dr. Jean Piaget and the Rev. Dr. John Westerhoff, to discern if we are teaching the right things at the right ages to our children and youth. We presented the results of our planning on May 9. To be clear, it is the BEGINNING of the conversation on how we want to raise Christians. Some of the proposals are simple like dividing up our 7-12 grade Sunday School into a Middle School Group and a Senior High Group. Some of the proposals like extending Catechesis to more children and older grades require space that will not be available for several years.
The most controversial is looking at the age at which we confirm our youth. We currently confirm in 6th grade, which is age 11 or 12. The unanimous recommendation of two different committees working on these programs is to move confirmation to an older level, preferably 8th grade. We will not do this for another year. Our plan is to hold three meetings with parents: 6:00 p.m. on September 12, October 12, and October 24. We want to hear from the parents of children in this age range to weigh in on what they want to do to move forward.
We have put the PowerPoint report online (see below) to allow folks to see the research and more details of the programs. The great news is that people are engaging and interested in the process we are proposing. We, the formation staff at Saint Michael, feel confident that this is the best way to move forward. We hope you will join us in praying for our children and youth. Even more than that, we hope you will consider helping to teach them and raise them up to know and love the Lord.
The Rev. Dr. Bill Murray